Recent research indicates that alcohol consumption jumped 14% in the U.S. in 2020 (hello, crap year). Many imbibed as a temporary salve to deal with the stress of COVID-19, but the increase in alcohol intake is also having an enduring and negative impact on the skin.
Sure, antioxidants in red wine have some health benefits, but, on the whole, alcohol is pretty terrible for the skin. (So, yes, more bad news in a year filled with it.) But there are ways to temper its effects. Read on to educate yourself about exactly what alcohol does to your skin—and some simple ways to mitigate its effects.
The bad news: This is what alcohol does to your skin
Alcohol is a toxin that, when consumed, negatively impacts skin cell activity. Drink it on the regular and it can cause…
Alcohol is a diuretic that causes the body to rapidly lose water, including the fluid that keeps skin plump. In the short term this means that after downing two or more drinks, you may wake up to dull, flakey skin. Over the long haul, however, regular drinking can cause the skin to become chronically dehydrated and more vulnerable to sagging and wrinkling.
Alcohol can trigger an inflammatory response in the skin, resulting in skin puffiness—especially around the eyes.
The same inflammatory effect can also cause dilation of capillaries in the skin, resulting in face flushing. This is why heavy drinkers often develop red cheeks and noses.
Alcohol can impact your body’s microbiome (the ratio of good to bad bacteria), an imbalance that may trigger acne and eczema flareups in the skin. Alcohol can also enlarge pores, increasing the likelihood of developing blackheads and whiteheads.
The good news: How to minimize alcohol’s impact
Alcohol is never going to be a health food, but there are ways to enjoy it on occasion, while minimizing its negative effects.
Clear things up
Generally-speaking, clearer alcohols (e.g. vodka, gin, tequila) are processed and flushed through the body faster than dark liquor or sugary cocktails. And if the alcohol moves quickly through your system, it incurs less damage.
Avoid sugary additives
Sugar is one of the primary inflammatory triggers so keeping your cocktails simple (a shot glass of tequila or vodka mixed with La Croix) will help alleviate next-day puffiness and redness.
Choose red wine over white
Sorry, Chardonnay lovers, but red wine does usually boast a higher number of antioxidants like polyphenols and resveratrol, which may help counterbalance the alcohol’s negative effects.
Drink only every other day (or less)
This one is obvious. The less you drink, the less you damage your skin.
Up your water intake
Drinking a glass of water for every alcoholic drink you down will help flush the alcohol out of your body faster—and re-hydrate and replenish the fluids the alcohol drains out of your body (and skin). Similarly, eating while you are drinking may mitigate alcohol’s effects because it passes through the digestive system, along with the food, diluting its damaging impact.
Treat the skin with the right topicals
Choosing skincare products that combat the negative effects of alcohol is a smart strategy. To nourish dehydrated skin and temper the inflammatory response, choose an overnight formula that is packed with hydrating ingredients and free radical/inflammation-fighting antioxidants. Pour Moi’s Night Cream contains plush shea butter, moisturizing apricot kernel oil, microalgae (which will give the skin a dewy glow in the morning) and antioxidant-rich squalene. In the morning, continue to quell inflammation by applying an antioxidant serum under your day cream. Pour Moi has three—one for each skin type: the Black Serum is for dry to very dry skin, the White Serum is recommended for combination, sensitive and normal skin, and the Blue Serum is best for acne-prone skin.
Bottom line: Happy Hour can actually be quite happy if you take a few skin, and body, precautions to make sure you’re off-setting any potentially negative impact. Cheers!